SBC Prayer Gathering focuses on the past, present, future

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) — Hundreds prayed Sunday evening (June 9) in the main meeting hall for God’s direction, the next generation, pastors and all others arriving for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in the coming days.

The SBC Prayer Gathering, now in its fourth year, has become the unofficial launch of on-site annual meeting events and one that leaders Robby Gallaty and Bill Elliff hope sets a tone to keep Christ at the center of this week’s discussions.

“We’re going to focus on silence and solitude,” said Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, at the opening. “We’re setting the stage for God to move.”

Elliff, founding and national engagement pastor of The Summit Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, began by introducing a time of prayer directed at thanks to God, encouraging others to be receptive of the lengths to which Christ can move. 

“Jesus said, ‘If you ask the Father for anything in my name, He will give it. That’s an astounding promise,” Elliff said.

Shane Pruitt, next-gen director for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), and Paul Worcester, NAMB national collegiate director, led focused times of prayer for the next generation. Long Hollow singers and musicians led during times of worship. 

Attendees gathered in groups of three or four at times to pray. In other instances, focused prayer was directed at individuals requesting it.

Two weighty words

Speaking with college students has revealed two things to him, Worcester said. There is an overwhelming amount of lostness on campuses. And there is an even stronger potential for the next great revival.

One passage of Scripture and two words weigh heavy on his mind, he added.

Matthew 9:36-38 describes sheep without a shepherd as Jesus points out that there is a plentiful harvest at hand and few laborers ready. College campuses are that potential harvest.

“Urgency,” said Worcester. “The average campus in North America, through our observation, is about 5% reached. The next time you’re watching college football on Saturday, think about [those students] … living a life of bondage to sin, a life of emptiness and an eternity in hell.

“That’s the urgency.”

But the other word on his mind — opportunity — shows that “the harvest is plentiful. God is moving in amazing ways across college campuses and next gen ministries.”

“I can point you to dozens of campus ministries and churches seeing people coming to Christ. We’re seeing God do incredible things,” Worcester said.

Pruitt opened by pointing to Psalm 145:4, which states that “One generation shall commend your works to another.” In other words, everyone within the sound of his voice benefitted from next-gen ministry.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of faithful men and women who pointed the next generation to the mighty acts of God,” he said. “So now, brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s our turn to be faithful.”

Today’s younger generation is looking for hope, answers and truth. The church knows the answer to all three has a name, the name above all others, Pruitt said. The name of Jesus still saves today, as it did in the past and will in the future. 

Kie Bowman, the SBC’s national director of prayer, was saved during the Jesus Movement of the 1970s and resonated with the desire to pray for revival among young people.

That time brought rapid growth in the SBC and its seminaries, he said.

“We saw evangelism, prayer and an emphasis on biblical preaching. All of those things were hallmarks of revival,” said Bowman, pastor emeritus of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. “If revival comes today, we’ll see an influx of young people coming to Christ, surrendering to ministry, and entering the mission field.

“And if you look back at evidence of revival, there is always a prayer movement.”

No limits for God

Time was also taken to pray for pastors in crisis. Gallaty shared stories of struggles in his own life when he took his eyes off Christ. Correction from those times ultimately led him to places of strength.

“What do you believe God can do?” he asked. “Is your faith the limit and the lid to the scope and significance of the power of God in your life?

“… We have a God who does the miraculous. He doesn’t just work in the miracle business; He owns it.”

That same God can spark campuswide revival out of the 5%. He can take discouraged and even broken pastors and place them in roles to heal the hurting and lost.

Elliff’s meetings with Southern Baptist collegiate ministry directors reminds him of the importance of their ministries. But all Southern Baptists have a prayerful role in seeing revival materialize. 

“We have a window right now. The wind of God is moving in an extraordinary way,” he said.

Elliff acknowledged that it’s not yet the spiritual “tsunami” everyone would hope for, but the numbers of those who are coming to faith in Christ can’t be ignored.

“Revival,” he said, “is when God does extraordinary things that produce extraordinary results.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Scott Barkley is national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

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